Posts Tagged Beer
This coming weekend (which, not coincidentally, contains my birthday), I will be going to Portland, Oregon. I am really excited about this trip for a few reasons, not the least of them being the fact that I have only ever driven through or flown over the city on my way somewhere else and have always wanted to visit; though most of the reason I am excited about it: the beer. Duh. As you may know, Portland is a mecca of beer lovers due to the preponderance of craft breweries. According to Wikipedia (the information source I use for all of my most diligent fact gathering), there are more breweries in Portland than in any other city in the world. This, coupled with the über picturesque sights around the city, the rain that is so sorely lacking where I’m from, and the generally polite and friendly people the area is known for, adds up to a pretty great trip, methinks. We shall see.
I’ll post some of my own pictures when I get back. In the meantime, let me know about some of your experiences in Portland.
As I alluded to in an earlier post, I got to attend the California Beer Festival in Ventura. A small affair, to be sure, but still everything I expected it would be. There were over 50 microbreweries represented there, both local and from around the country. For our “entertainment” they had a Michael Jackson “tribute” (read: “cover”) band onstage. As we began to make our way down the line of booths with our tiny sample cups (see below), I decided I would start with the more familiar brews. I don’t rightly remember the name of it, but it was at the Widmer booth and it was a red. Good enough, though a little on the hoppy side– even for a red. So the day wore on like that and over the course of 12-14 different samplers, I forgot the rest of the brews I tried (ever forget? Happened to me…). I never made it to the Ninkasi booth and I had been looking forward to trying their stuff. Oh well, I will be taking a trip to Portland in a couple of weeks, so I’ll hit them up while I’m there. Suffice to say, I enjoyed myself, despite the tidal wave of IPA that seems to be overtaking the industry.
I am looking forward to any other of the numerous festivals that are being held in and around San Diego for Oktoberfest. I would really like to hear in the comments about some of your favorite beer events. It will give me something to shoot for next time!
It’s been a while, but we finally got to tasting our brew. Um…let’s just say it went about as expected. Hopeful as we were through this whole process, we fully expected to need a couple of brews under our collective belts before we got it down. Our beer was in the bottles for probably about 3 weeks, so our problem definitely couldn’t have been premature tasting. When we cracked the first bottle, after letting it chill in the fridge for about 48 hours, there was a promising hiss from the pressure that built up from the carbon dioxide released by the yeast (which is what creates the carbonation at this point in the process). This was a hopeful sign of the results of our efforts. The liquid was a dark brownish-red color, a little cloudy (we used no fining agents) and smelled slightly sour with some hoppiness and heavy malt. It had a head was respectable, though it didn’t stick to the sides of the glass with any kind of lacing, and large, quickly-rising bubbles from the carbonation.
Now…the taste. It tasted quite sour, accompanied by a faint chemical taste. It was almost skunky, which I’ve learned can be due to light and/or air contamination. It can’t be the former, since we kept it securely locked away in a closet, undisturbed, in the corrugated cardboard box the empty bottles came in. So, in my estimation from my infinite experience as a home brewer, I have deduced the following likely causes of our Pepe Le Pew-esque brew:
-We didn’t get the caps on tightly enough
-We used too much/too strong a concentration of sanitizer
-There was some kind of contamination from all the dog hair or dust flying around in the house
To be fair, we did only crack a couple of bottles (gave one to a friend to diagnose), so some of the other 43 remaining bottles we have may be OK.
Ah well, c’est la vie. On to the next brew: the nutty brown!
So, every year there comes the most wondrous event in the beer world: California Beer Festival. With over 100 beers on tap, lots of food and entertainment, this is pretty much a beer lover’s dream. This is an annual traveling series of street fair-style events put on in cities up and down the state (this year there were 4) that embrace the craft brewing culture. I will admit this is my first visit to this particular event. Last year, I went to the Microbrew Fest in Two Harbors on Catalina Island. That was a very pleasant surprise, as I and the people I was with at the time had not a shred of awareness it was going on beforehand, since we were on the island on other business (bachelor party). It was much smaller than the upcoming one in Ventura, but still I couldn’t have had more fun out there. I expect the CBF will be even more fun, with more beer, more people and more beer! (Did I mention more beer?) I’ll post some pictures of the event next week. In the meantime, let me know in the comments below about some cool beer events you have gone to.
Until then, cheers!
Last Thursday I went to my friendly neighborhood brewery/bar KnB Wine Cellars. I’ve written about them before and I continue to love this place more each time I go. This time I went for the third day of their 4 day long 5-year anniversary celebration. To commemorate this day they were tapping 3 of their own test batches, along with some new menu items. Since I love everything that I’ve tried on their regular menu (so far), I was pretty excited to try anything new they had to offer and they did not disappoint. Come along and let me take you on a little journey…
First up, I ordered a Figueroa Mountain Davy Brown (6% abv). This has a smooth, creamy head, with a medium-dark color. The taste is nutty and creamy, with light hints of caramel and a noticeable caramel aftertaste.
Next I wanted to try each of their KnB Test Batch beers, #3, #4 and #5. I didn’t get to try #1 or #2, which appear to have been IPAs (here is the only “review” of #2 I was able to find). I wanted to start low to high on the alcohol content and still be sober enough to enjoy them. I thought the best way to do this would be to order their beer flight sampler, which is pictured above.
I started the sampler with Test Batch #4, which was a saison (8.1% abv). This beer is a dark yellow, cloudy and very fizzy. The head loosely laces the glass and doesn’t stick around long. The characteristic sour smell of this beer may be off putting to some, but I found it kind of refreshing. Also, the sour taste of lemon and grapefruit, with a little peach mixed in was pretty good. The tart aftertaste stuck around a while and while it was not unpleasant, I felt like heartburn was likely. Surprisingly, it didn’t happen.
Then I went to Test Batch #3, an American strong ale (9.0% abv). A dark burnt orange and semi opaque, I was really looking forward to this beer. I waited too long to get to this one and the head had all but disappeared, but that didn’t seem to take away from the taste at all. It had a semi-sweet, very rich flavor. Its high alcohol content was really apparent cutting through after the initial sweetness. The aftertaste was about the same, though I was feeling the effects of the alcohol by then, so it may have just clouded my taste buds.
Next, I tried the Test Batch#5, an imperial stout (11.2% abv). This was super dark, with a semi-sweet, sugary smell. I again waited too long (20 mins) to get a good look at the full head, but what was left held lightly to glass. The taste was very rich and sweet, with brown sugar and mild spice (cinnamon?). The heavy, sweet aftertaste of caramel was appropriate for such a big beer, but in the end, the sweetness was just a bit overpowering for me.
I was going to stop there, but there was a Shipyard Smasher Pumpkin (9.0% abv) right there on the menu, taunting me. I couldn’t help myself. This beauty poured a surprisingly bright orange color, with an off-white, medium creamy head. It smelled sweet and spicy, with a noticeable pumpkin aroma. It had a very creamy feel to it and tasted a bit creamy as well. I could easily pick out brown sugar, pumpkin, cloves, a little cinnamon- pretty much pumpkin pie in a glass. The cinnamon aftertaste with some brown sugar and clove finished the beer nicely.
I should point out that while I don’t pretend to be a professional, or even experienced beer reviewer, I am able to pick out certain common elements. I may not always use the “correct” terms, but I hope it’s apparent that I do love and truly appreciate beer. Which beers are you most excited about?
Hey beer fans,
Today is the last step in actually “making” beer. We moved it from the secondary fermenter to bottles. Of course, as with the rest of this whole process, it was not as simple as that. First, we had to arrange everything on the counter around the kitchen, as that is the best place we have for such an operation, such that we had a place for the bottles, bucket, carboy and capper.
After rinsing, washing and sanitizing everything, we went to work. First, we had to get the brew from the secondary fermenter to a bucket for easier racking, or filling, of the bottles. To do this, we placed the carboy and a clean bucket with a spigot with a packet of priming sugar in the bottom next to each other on the floor and used the auto siphon to transfer the beer from the carboy to the bucket, making sure to avoid touching the bottom of the siphon to the bottom of the fermenter. You see, when those wonderful little yeast do their work, they create waste and even die in the process of fermentation. All this junk (yeast poop and carcases) sinks to the bottom of the vessel and you don’t want that in your beer. ‘Twould make it a bit…chewy, methinks. This took a good 10 minutes to fill the bucket.
That done, we moved the now filled bucket onto the counter above so that gravity could help us with the next step: actually filling the bottles. We removed the hose from the auto siphon (we’ll get more hose for future brewing). Making sure to sanitize both hose and spigot, we attached the hose. At this point, I remembered we never took a gravity reading before we started this process and I was curious. After fumbling around with the hydrometer, which measures the specific gravity of the beer (reading the instructions for something I don’t yet understand that well was yet another lesson in humility), we placed it into a separate sample cup of brew. It didn’t float as it should. So, we decided that we would just take the reading from the brew in the bucket we had just transferred to. After sanitizing it, we carefully lowered it into the beer. We had to wait for it to stop moving around to see the reading. It read a 1.04. Not having the slightest idea what this meant, we consulted the chart the tool came with. I don’t want to say I was disappointed (I’ll actually be surprised if this stuff is even fit for human consumption), but the chart seemed to indicate that our beer was a paltry 1.4% alcohol. Of course, it was about 90 degrees outside today, so in the house it was probably…90 degrees and the chart’s warmest temperature range was 74 degrees. So much for that. We didn’t take a reading after the initial boil as we were supposed to anyway (read instructions carefully, kids!), so we would have had nothing to compare even an accurate reading to.
Next we set to prepping the bottles. Looking around the kitchen we could find no more suitable a place to keep them, as we have no bottling rack, than the dishwasher. So we lined them up and sprayed them down with sanitizer and let them air dry. This was probably the only part in this entire process where we actually let sanitizer dry out or evaporate off of something that would come into contact with our beer. Hey, our beer will at least sanitize your insides… Finally, it came time to fill our prepped bottles and cap them. This took a little getting used to, as we had to make sure there were no snags in the hose coming from the bucket spigot, but after a couple of sticky spills, we got a system down. All told, we filled 47 of the 48 bottles the kit came with. Not bad, considering our rough estimate was that we would fill those 48 and still have some brew left over. Turns out we were bad guessers, and we have almost two beautiful cases of what is hopefully a tasty beer. I’ll let you know in 10-14 days when we are ready to crack one. I just hope none of these bad boys explode in my closet!
Until then, happy brewin’!
I had mentioned this place in my post Day 3- Fermentation, so I thought it deserved a more . As mentioned in the earlier post, All About Brewing is a small fairly out-of-the-way brewing supply store in El Cajon, less than a 10 minute drive from our brewery… I mean, house. This is a far more convenient option than ordering from an online supplier like Midwest Supplies, since we can go and buy practically anything we need right there and not have to wait (or pay shipping charges.) They are just starting up out there, so to some their inventory may seem somewhat limited, but to a novice like myself, they have everything I could possibly want there. They have whole tubs full of any kind of grain you could want to add to your ingredient list. They have all kinds of bottling and kegging equipment, refrigerators full of yeasts of all kinds, fermenters, chiller rings and cleaning/sanitizer supplies. They even sell home-brew kits and, soon, copper stills for making distilled creations.
More importantly than the physical supplies they offer, they are also very generous with their advice on beer making. Jim, the proprietor of the establishment, is a brewer himself and a real nice guy to boot. He is more than happy to give you advice if your brew isn’t going particularly well, or he will just chat with you about beer, home brewing, or anything at all, really. He is a genuinely nice guy and seems to really care about people’s experience with drinking and brewing beer. Look this place up if you are in the area and want a great experience in your journey of beer making.
The other night we went back (yes, “back”- I had been before I started writing this blog) to BNS Brewing & Distilling Co. This is but one of the many local breweries here in sunny San Diego. This one is located in Santee, less than a half hour from downtown.
BNS is a great little start-up brewery, with big aspirations. Currently, they have only five beers on tap: a golden ale, two IPAs, a saison and an imperial stout. I imagine they will come out with more once they catch on a little more among the populace. I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t- the place has everything for mass appeal, especially in East County (San Diego): beer, cowgirls behind the bar and…country music. I’m not a fan of that last one, but I’ll ignore it for good beer.
In the meantime, they also operate a distillery out of the same space. This is a pretty impressive feat apparently since, after talking with their head distiller Andy, it isn’t easy to get a license to brew beer and liquor at the same time. From this, they hope to have gin, rum and, of course, whiskey. Any given day you go in there, you are likely to find plenty of people at the tasting bar, in their gift shop, where they also sell home brewing kits that include recipes for both their golden ale and one of their IPAs, or out on their serene patio patio, and Andy toiling away at the distillery.
As if you needed another reason to go, they also have a calendar of events that promises food trucks multiple times throughout each week and hopefully, according to the folks behind the bar, live music eventually. We were there for their weekly Taco Tuesdays event, catered by Casanova Fish Tacos. This was fantastic, as BNS doesn’t have a kitchen and, according to Andy, don’t want to. Andy says food certification and health codes are too far away from what they want to do with beer and liquor. Can’t say I can argue with them there. Go in and check them out!
This blog isn’t just about my own efforts into brewing beer. I also want to pay my respects to purveyors of the stuff. First up is a little place just down the street from me called K ‘n B Wine Cellars. This is pretty much a giant liquor store with a restaurant plopped right down in the middle of it. As you can see from the picture, their selection is… let’s call it “extensive”. They have just about any brew, spirit or wine you could think of and even some you can’t. In fact, if they don’t have something, you can ask them to order it and they will try. The sheer variety of beer on their shelves and in their refrigerators is why we go. They have so many local and craft brews, it can be a bit intimidating at first. Fear not, though, for I am here to help. Here is what you do: sit down, look at the beer list and try everything. If you aren’t particularly familiar with a particular selection, the servers and managers there are more than happy to answer any questions you might have.
This place is great for more than just great booze, though. They also have fantastic food. Their sweet potato tots are really good and they have real good sandwiches, too. If you don’t want to eat and you find the selections they have in stock not to your taste, go to one of their occasional events they have throughout each month. I just went to a scotch tasting last month, where they had Dalmore and Jura for my (yes, and other people’s tasting pleasure. Coming up at the end of this month is their 5-year anniversary. Should be a party. Come by and check it out!